Super pitch

A long shot from the start, Tampa Bay beat the odds Wednesday when Raymond James Stadium was again chosen to host the Super Bowl.

Tampa was vying for the 2009 selection against three other NFL franchises: Miami, Houston and Atlanta. Atlanta was deemed the front-runner in the bidding process but failed to overcome the strong proposal by the Tampa bid team, led by USF Board of Trustees Chairman Dick Beard. An article in Tuesday’s Tampa Tribune stated that Tampa had 3-1 odds over Atlanta. Tampa has hosted three Super Bowls, in 1984, 1991 and 2001.

“We’re all ecstatic,” Beard said. “It wasn’t done just by this team alone. We had people from the community in the background, and quite frankly, the three Super Bowls that Tampa Bay has hosted in the past were great successes at those times. It gave the owners confidence.”

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank was hoping to sway the owners with a $150-million plan for renovations to the Georgia Dome, home of the Atlanta Falcons. Houston’s Reliant Stadium boasts state-of-the-art facilities and hoped to use that to persuade the owners.

The task force, which included Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, was the last of the four groups to present its 15-minute proposal to the 32 NFL owners in Washington, D.C. Influential in the package was the plan for Busch Gardens to host a Super Bowl party. With an abundance of golf courses in the Tampa Bay area, the outdoor possibilities for tourists seemed endless.

Another of the main drawing factors for the Super Bowl’s return to the Bay Area is the climate. Temperatures in January average around 65 to 68 degrees, which is ideal weather for football.

“Our weather was very important in the decision,” Beard said. “People don’t want to go to a cold climate in January.”

The recently completed construction of Raymond James Stadium was also influential in the stadium’s selection. Behind-the-scenes work from the Glazer family and Buccaneer Executive Vice President Bryan Glazer helped influence the committee, Beard said.

“I think that the presentation was well thought out and well done,” he said. “I think the Glazer family, with their behind-the-scenes work, was probably critically important. I believe that it’s the most important piece of the puzzle.”

With the masses of tourists and fans who flock to the Super Bowl, local businesses near USF and Busch Gardens are likely to benefit from the Super Bowl party at Busch Gardens.

Besides financial gains, another bonus for Bulls Country is the likelihood that one of the teams represented in the Super Bowl will practice at USF.

“Our proposal included the practice facilities at USF,” Beard said. “Our new athletic facility could be used by one of the two teams.”The 103,000-square-foot facility opened May 2004.

“We have held practices here in the past,” said Assistant Director of Athletics John Gerdes. “The new facility adds to the power of what USF has to offer. We’ve been a good host in the past.”

Many felt this was Tampa’s last opportunity to host the Super Bowl for years to come. Bids have already been locked up through 2008, and the 2010 Super Bowl has been provisionally awarded to New York. Also, several NFL teams are in the process of securing new stadiums, including Dallas and Minnesota.